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Dutch band skips Byblos in solidarity with Mashrou' Leila.

Summary: A Dutch metal band has canceled its upcoming concert at the Byblos International Festival in solidarity with Lebanese indie-rock group Mashrou' Leila

BEIRUT: A Dutch metal band has canceled its upcoming concert at the Byblos International Festival in solidarity with Lebanese indie-rock group Mashrou' Leila, alleging Lebanese authorities "are not able to provide artists the security to perform in peace." Within Temptation, who were set to play Byblos Wednesday Aug. 7, said they canceled their show after finding out Mashrou' Leila had been pulled from the festival. This, the group said in a statement on their Facebook page, was "due to security reasons after religious fanatics demanded their performance to be canceled."

"We have decided to cancel our show in Byblos in solidarity with Mashrou' Leila and in support of tolerance, freedom of speech and expression," the statement added.

The BIF had last week canceled Mashrou Leila's concert "in order to prevent bloodshed" following a virulent online campaign by social media users and Christian groups who claimed that some of the band's songs were offensive to Christianity.

A number of activists opposed to Mashrou' Leila had threatened violence if the concert had gone ahead.

"I think [Within Temptation] took a principled stance and I respect that," Naji Baz, the Byblos festival's producer, told The Daily Star. "They are true to their convictions, and obviously when we sign a band we are convinced with their music and their positions."

Baz said that several thousand people had bought tickets for both concerts - tickets that must now be refunded. He pitted blame on the government for failing to provide any assurances that the Mashrou' Leila concert could go ahead at a time when the band had come under a barrage of threats.

"These were beyond the normal security measures that we take for shows. It would have needed serious government involvement, and this was lacking, and is still lacking," Baz said.

Interior Minister Raya El Hassan previously told The Daily Star that the ministry had not issued security assurances because it wasn't sure the concert was going ahead.

"I would have made sure security measures were in place if the concert had taken place," she said.

She did not respond to a request for comment Sunday.

Baz said that the festival needed the government to "be by our side, protecting us and our choices and art and culture in general."

To this day, he said no government official had been in touch with festival organizers. "I even wonder if there is a government," he said.

Still, the fallout from the Mashrou' Leila incident on the BIF has been relatively contained.

Sunday's cancellation came after 23-year-old DJ Martin Garrix played in Byblos Saturday night to a crowd of about 8,000, according to Baz.

Garrix and Chinese-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the final act set to close the festival on Aug. 24, have remained silent on the issue on social media. They have not responded to requests for comment from The Daily Star.

Baz said that the famed cellist's manager confirmed he would be attending the festival.

Lebanon's other summer festivals have also been relatively shielded from the Mashrou' Leila incident.

Hala Chahine, director of the Beiteddine Art Festival, told The Daily Star that the BAF had not been affected and that, even after Sunday's cancellation, "all remains on schedule."

The prestigious Baalbeck Festival closed Saturday night having seen no cancellations.

Despite the latest developments, Baz said he was not scared for the future of the Byblos festival. "Today we had a cancellation, but life goes on. We will have many more shows and many other battles to fight."

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Aug 5, 2019
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